It’s a long-running joke with heterosexual couples: Men are total babies when they get sick. But while men always argue that this is a made-up thing, new research has found there might actually be something to it.
A study published in The BMJ found that “man flu,” i.e. a situation where a guy acts like he’s on death’s door with something as minor as a cold, might actually be legit. For the study, researcher Kyle Sue, a clinical assistant professor in family medicine at Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland, analysed several studies about respiratory illnesses, colds, flus, and viral infections and compared symptoms men tend to experience with those women go through when they have the same illnesses.
Here’s what Sue found: There’s an “immunity gap.” Basically, a man’s immune system may just be weaker than a woman’s immune system, making them more likely to develop complications from certain health conditions, like respiratory illnesses and the common cold, that women don't. Sue chalks this up to hormonal differences: Testosterone suppresses the immune system while estradiol (a female hormone) actually protects the immune system.
To back up his theory, Sue pointed out that there are a few studies that found that women have better reactions to the flu shot than men, and might actually be more responsive to it. He also noted that one study published in Hong Kong found that men had a higher risk than women of being admitted to the hospital after contracting the flu. Another study he discovered found that men were more likely to die from the flu compared to women of the same age, regardless of whether they had any other underlying health conditions.
Sue admits that his conclusion isn’t definitive, writing in his paper, “further higher quality research is needed to clarify other aspects of man flu.” Still, he says there does seem to be something to it.
Hm. Something tells us men are going to LOVE this research.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.